Game Design From Outer Space

A game inspired by Bosch and his artworks.



The right premises before telling you about this project is that we love art. One of the things we always dreamt about was making a game that could allow people to experience art in a different and deeper way. So, when we read that the Jheronimus Bosch 500 Foundation was throwing an international contest for a game which would commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the great and controversial Dutch artist, our eyes started to sparkle with joy. We decided to give it a try and joined the Bosch Art Game competition. More info at boschartgame.com.

Bosch Art Game

What immediately came up as we started working at the concept to be submitted to the jury was that we didn’t want just to make a game set inside Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. We also wanted to depict our own interpretation of the artist and his works. The game we imagined – titled Zwan – is an interactive exploration experience where you navigate a slowly decaying world and discover the works of Hieronymus Bosch hidden into it. The main idea is to give life to the works of Bosch, while enacting a metaphor of pain and madness. The more pain the player inflicts to themselves, the more dangerous and wicked the world becomes.

So, in December 2012, we submitted our pitch to the jury. Zwan was then selected and passed to the next phase of the contest: the prototype. In July 2013 we presented the first Zwan playable prototype to the Jheronimus Bosch 500 Foundation. In October 2013 we updated the prototype to the last version.

Zwan and the other five Bosch Art Game finalists was presented to the public at some international events:

  • September 28 – Preview Zwan at Kunstnacht Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL)
  • October 3 – Preview Cave! Cave! Deus Videt! (‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL)
  • October 11, 12 and 13 – Presentations six prototypes (‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL)
    Special event: October 11 3:00 PM
    Announcement of the winner by the international expert jury.
  • October 22 and 23 – Bosch Art Game at GameCity (Nottingham, UK)
  • October 25 6:00 PM – Presentation at IGDS (Milano, IT)
  • October 26 and 27 – Presentation at Playing the Game (Milano, IT)

Zwan: The Gameplay

To explore Bosch’s world you have to take control of a white swan (Zwan, that is), which isn’t just the only playable character in the game but it also is what we figured could be interpreted as a Bosch’s alter-ego, flying through a three-dimensional space. At first this world is extremely calm and peaceful, as it is in the first part of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. While you roam the space (you can only fly) you can collect some floating eggs. You explore the world looking at all the strange creatures that are inside of it. Some elements in the world, though, can harm you. Every time you are harmed by a creature or a feature of the world, it goes one step further towards decay.

Your path begins from the Eden, passes through the Earth and ends with the Hell, where corruption reigns. You’ll notice that the green field starts to wither and the heavenly landscape is now populated with strange, wicked creatures. The more the world decays, the more vicious and aggressive the creatures become. The collectible eggs of the previous stage disappear, replaced with new ones. So you have to explore the world through all the three stages to discover everything. When you feel you have collected all the eggs of a stage, follow the path of pain: hurt yourself in search for redemption.

Eventually the world will crumble to hell, and after some time you will die. At this point you’ll find out that collected eggs unveil parts of some of the most famous works by Bosch. How many works will you recognise?


If you visit zwan.urustar.net, you can download the early prototype (v1-r1c – 2013-10-04) for Mac and Windows. You can also find Zwan in the B*Sides 2010-2014 pack on Gumroad (pay what you want) along with other 16 games and extra stuff.


In this prototype version, you can only control the direction (left and right), no height. You can use the arrow keys but we suggest to use a gamepad with an analogue stick.

Press P to pause the game and then Esc to quit.

Best experienced with headphones and gamepad.


If you are a journalist or a blogger, you can visit press.urustar.net to download the Zwan press kit.

Related posts

Zwan Will Fly to the Netherlands

The last chapter of the Bosch Art Game contest is forthcoming. Here are the last prototype version and the new trailer. Now, fingers crossed!

A Trip to ‘s-Hertogenbosh: Presenting Zwan and Back!

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Zwan: Development Notes on Prototype v09

Some thoughts about the latest prototype version (v09) of Zwan, just before our presentation in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Zwan: How We Have Created a Procedural Soundtrack

Lorenzo write the story of how we have created a soundtrack with a hint of procedurality for Zwan.

Zwan: Development Notes on Prototype v05

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Zwan: A World Is Growing

Heading towards the end of the Bosch Art Game competition, we evaluate our prototype, sharing with you the good stuff, the problems and the happy accidents.

The Zwan Starts Flying

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Hieronymus Bosch’s Paintings: Our First Look

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